Nehemiah 5:8 MEANING

Nehemiah 5:8
(8) Will ye even sell your brethren?--The appeal is a strong one. Nehemiah and his friends had redeemed Jews from the heathen with money; these men had caused Jews to be sold to Jews.

Nothing to answer.--They might have replied had the letter of the law been urged; but this argument puts them to shame.

Verse 8. - We after our ability have redeemed our brethren. "We," here, may be either "we Jews of the captivity," in contrast with "you who have long returned from it," or "we of my house and household" (equivalent to the "I, my brethren, and my servants" of ver. 10), in contrast with "you rich Jews not of my household." Nehemiah must appeal to a well-known fact, that he and others had been in the habit of redeeming enslaved Jews among the heathen. Will ye even sell your brethren? An argumenturn ad verecundiam. Will ye do the exact opposite? Cause your brethren to be sold into slavery? And not to heathen masters, but to men of their own nation, unto us? Roman creditors, if they sold their debtor slaves, were required by law to sell them across the Tiber - to men of a different race. It was felt to add to the indignity of the slave condition that one should have to serve one's own countryman, recently one's equal and (perhaps) acquaintance. They held their peace, and found nothing to answer. Or, "found never a word. The argument told. It admitted of no reply. The nobles were ashamed, and had not a word to say.

5:6-13 Nehemiah knew that, if he built Jerusalem's walls ever so high, so thick, or so strong, the city could not be safe while there were abuses. The right way to reform men's lives, is to convince their consciences. If you walk in the fear of God, you will not be either covetous of worldly gain, or cruel toward your brethren. Nothing exposes religion more to reproach, than the worldliness and hard-heartedness of the professors of it. Those that rigorously insist upon their right, with a very ill grace try to persuade others to give up theirs. In reasoning with selfish people, it is good to contrast their conduct with that of others who are liberal; but it is best to point to His example, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich, 2Co 8:9. They did according to promise. Good promises are good things, but good performances are better.And I said unto them,.... The nobles, and rulers, and other rich persons that exacted usury of the poor:

we after our ability; speaking of himself in the plural number, which now obtained in the court of Persia; or of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and others, who, according as their worldly circumstances, having been captives, would admit of:

have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the Heathen; not that they had given a ransom for them to Cyrus, or any other king of Persia, which would be contrary to the prophecies concerning their redemption, Isaiah 45:13 but such who had sold themselves to particular persons in Babylon, who, without being redeemed, could not take the advantage of the liberty granted by Cyrus, and his successors; and it may be there were others also in the like circumstances, in other neighbouring nations, that had been redeemed this way. The Jewish canon (i) now is, he that sells himself, and his children, to Gentiles, they do not redeem; but they redeem the children after their father's death; which the commentators (k) explain of the third time that he sells himself:

and will you even sell your brethren? their lands and vineyards mortgaged to them, and even their persons:

or shall they be sold unto us? must we be obliged to buy them, and to redeem them:

then they held their peace, and found nothing to answer; being convinced they had done wrong, by the arguments used, to which they could make no reply.

(i) Misn. Gittin, c. 4. sect. 9. (k) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

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